20.03.2012 - ODG

Director-General Bokova on Media and Information Access in Address at Berkeley

© UNESCO/George PapagiannisUNESCO Director-General giving a speech at the School of Information at the University of California Berkeley, March 2012

© UNESCO/ George PapagiannisUNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova with the Chancellor of the University of California Berkeley, Robert Birgeneau, March 2012

Director-General Irina Bokova connected the dots across a broad spectrum of media issues in a speech at the School of Information at the University of California Berkeley on Tuesday. While focusing on information access and freedom in the digital age, the Director-General focused on content providers first, as no matter what platform is used, people generate the ideas and the stories that flow across airwaves, the printed page and wireless connections. “There are new barriers rising in the digital age,” she said, “and they come on top of the already tragic use of violence against journalists.”

Bloggers and citizen journalists are not immune to these attacks, which silence debate and stifle progress.   “UNESCO’s position is clear.  Freedom of expression and access to information are vital for strong democracy, for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and for stability and security,” she said.

UNESCO is the lead agency in the development of a United Nations wide program to address the issue of the safety of journalists and impunity.  Later this week, the Director General will release the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and Impunity.

Access to information is an underlying principle for UNESCO, taking inspiration and purpose from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  “We work to create the legal frameworks necessary for free speech in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” she said.  The Director-General is also co-chair of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. 

The digital age has changed the way people communicate and access information, but unless they have basic literacy and media literacy, they will never reap the full benefit of what the information age provides.  “This is why UNESCO is committed to Open Education Resources and Open Access initiatives.  This is the thrust of our ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, undertaken in partnership with Microsoft, Intel and Cisco,” the Director General said.

The velocity of change in the digital world is forcing governments to respond to issues of regulation, security and privacy.  In her comments to nearly 100 Berkeley academics and students, Director General Bokova set the bar high.  “The key lesson is that freedom cannot be divided or diminished.  It is full, or it is not at all.”

Earlier in the day, the Director-General met with university Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and discussed possible ways of strengthening the relationship between Berkeley and UNESCO.

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